Iron Range delegation strikes back against raid on local funds

Today members of the Iron Range legislative delegation held a press conference to decry the recent proposal to balance the cuts from one part of the state budget on the backs of an Iron Range jobs fund. Complete audio of the press conference is available at Rep. Tom Anzelc’s legislative site. Give it a listen. You’ll enjoy the voices and experience emotion, probably some variation of anger. The press release is here.

Anzelc, the new chair of the Iron Range delegation, called the proposal “highway robbery” and many theft and raid metaphors would follow from the others. The conference included IRRRB chair Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia), and Reps. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing) and David Dill (DFL-Crane Lake), both members of the Jobs committee. State Sens. David Tomassoni (DFL-Chisholm) and Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) also spoke. Sen. Tom Saxhaug (DFL-Grand Rapids) and Rep. Carolyn McElfatrick (R-Deer River) weren’t there but were included in the introduction. Today, McElfatrick broke with her party in writing a letter to the committee asking that the fund not be cut.

While partisan, this presser was informative about the nature of taconite taxes and the purpose of the economic development fund in question. This money really is equivalent to local property taxes which aren’t under consideration as a fix to the state budget anywhere else. The Republican tax chair who authored the bill later questioned the legality of the move, acting more like he knew this was just a gambit in what will be a long budget battle.

Freshman Rep. McElfatrick broke with her party to request that the provision be removed from the bill. Though she will continue to differ with Range DFLers on taxes this is clearly a case where one region is being singled out in a difficult budget situation. The jobs committee met this afternoon and some symbolic amendments were expected. I just got a press release from Rep. Melin, from which I share this excerpt:

In an afternoon hearing of the House Jobs and Economic Development committee, Melin demonstrated the hypocrisy of taking local property tax money to shore up the state’s general fund. Melin offered amendments to protect the Trust Fund, including an amendment to restore funding to the Trust Fund. She also proposed transferring $60 million in local government aid (LGA) that was scheduled to be paid to communities in Jobs Committee Chairman Bob Gunther’s legislative district. Neither amendment was adopted.

“I am committed to balancing the budget,” said Melin. “That is why I suggested the committee chairman share in the sacrifice and have his communities kick in $60 million to solve the deficit. The fact he wasn’t willing demonstrates the hypocrisy in asking the Iron Range to take this huge hit.”

“Stealing this money from the part of the state which gives so much to the rest of Minnesota is not only immoral but likely illegal,” explained Melin. “Republican members were not concerned that misappropriating our local tax revenue appears to be a direct violation of state statute.”

Melin noted the economic significance of the Trust Fund. “This fund exists to make sure our communities can continue to exist once the iron ore is gone. It is regional money used to pay for regional economic development. Without a strong Range, there is not a strong Minnesota. The Republicans have opened Pandora’s Box and sent a clear message to all Minnesotans: local property tax money is fair game to solve the statewide budget deficit.”

The amendments failed, but this battle clearly isn’t over, nor are most of the battles in the legislature for that matter. Watch the news in coming days as these developments transpire.


  1. Funny thing is I just checked out the IRRRB website and it turns out I’m in the IRRRB area. You don’t hear so much about it down here.

  2. Don’t you know…….. When the economic power of the state of Mn. (twin cities area), over spends, or just is plain run ignorantly…… The redheaded step child… (that is the iron range), is suppose to chip in and pick up the slack??!!
    Do you think for one minute if the shoe was on the other foot, would they help us??? Ha, I think not!!!

    Of course the above is an exaggeration, or is it!!!???

    Hey non range legislators…… Get your hands out of our cookie jar, and If ya wanna run stuff like a bunch of ignorant kids, prepare yourselfs for the slapping in the face you deserve!!!


  3. I wish the Range politicians felt as strongly about protecting my tax money as they do about protecting the Trust Fund. I know folks who live in Ramsey county in Mounds View school district, where it’s about 8 grand per student, but their money goes also to St Paul inner city schools where it’s about 12 grand per student. I assume it’s okay if “Minnesotans local tax money is fair game to solve county budget deficits”. I don’t want the state taking the Trust Fund either but I get a kick out of the “redistribution crowd” screaming not with OUR money. Makes me laugh.

  4. What has the IRRRB done for the past 30 years to- as Melin stated- “Make sure our communities can continue to exist once the iron ore is gone?” What other industries have they created, what “regional economic development” have they developed?
    I’m not being contrary, I’m actually quite interested. If they have created jobs with that money, then where are all those jobs and how much has it cost us per job?

  5. Aaron, give us a list of projects that have employed folks and showed a profit that have been started with IRRRB money. As I stated I don’t want the state to raid the Trust Fund any more than you. I would like to see what the IRRRB is doing with that money.

  6. Good luck on getting the list K. You should know by now Aaron isn’t one to discuss detail.

  7. Right, so why are you here then, Ranger47? If I’m such an irresponsible blogger why do you come back, and troll my work on other sites too?

    I don’t have a list. I can attest that the agency has had some success with small businesses over the years. Mesabi Nuggest and Magnrtation worked. Others haven’t. I’ve written many things about the pros and cons of the agency’s record. Call Commissioner Sertich if you want a formal list. It was a good question. I just don’t have a complete answer, nor will I be able to get one in the near future.

  8. Fair enough. I was just wondering how efficient the IRRRB is in picking winners and losers. Most politicians haven’t run small businesses and don’t have the experience in running companies. That was why I liked having Jack Ryan of Hibbing on the board. He looked only at the economic value to Range and sustainability of project. Too much “you scratch my back” mentality with the Trust Fund for me.

  9. Have Melin look into this please. MN Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) is a non profit helping MN be more progressive on energy. The CEE gets it money from Minneapolis tax payers, Fed stimulus (our money), energy rate payers (us), MN legislative grants (our money)). Biggest contributor was MN Legislative Citizen Commission on Resources (our money), where Sen Ellen Anderson (check her out yourself) was released from her lofty position without explanation. Well, the salaries for the CEE are President-275,323, Director of Engineering-241,406, Lighting Consultant-189,466, Treasurer-180,067, Director of Indoor Air Quality-175,063…. I think you get the drift.
    Please get as excited to attack this waste of my money as you do for the raid on Trust Fund. It’s this type of crap that causes our state to be 6 billion in debt.
    So get after it Carly Melin and show me you’re not a partisan clown like most elected officials we put into office. Tommy (Big A) Anzelc, Rukavina, Tomassoni, Bakk and McElfatrick feel free to check this out also.

  10. Just keeping my friends close Aaron, and my enemies closer.

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